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'Hurry up and vote, Congress': Arizonans waiting on new healthcare benefits in the Inflation Reduction Act

But like many aspects of government, the new law will take time to go into effect.

PHOENIX — A historic spending bill on the verge of passing through Congress aims to combat climate change and lower prescription drug costs for seniors.

Why it matters

For years, Congress has flirted with the idea of putting a cap on insulin costs for Medicare recipients and giving the government the power to negotiate prices for prescription drugs. 

The Senate approved those two measures in the Inflation Reduction Act over the weekend. The House is expected to pass the bill on Friday. It will then head to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

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Who benefits from healthcare provisions?

Retired furniture dealer Lee Donimari of Phoenix has been taking insulin for 10 years at a cost of between $10 to $500 per month. It’s estimated that 3.3 million people on Medicare receive some form of insulin.

“It depends on what I’m doing that month because the insulin will vary,” Donimari said.

Asked for his reaction to news of the bill’s passage, Donimari, 80, said it would be “very good” for him.

“Hurry up and vote, Congress,” Donimari said.

The Inflation Reduction Act would benefit Medicare recipients by:

  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, beginning with 10 prescriptions in the first year
  • Capping out-of-pocket spending to $2,000 annually
  • Not allowing drug companies to raise prices higher than inflation
  • Capping insulin costs at $35 a month

RELATED: The Inflation Reduction Act does cap insulin prices, but only for Medicare patients

A cap on insulin costs for private insurance failed

A separate effort to cap insulin costs for private insurance recipients failed to garner enough Republican votes in the Senate on Sunday. The Senate needed 60 votes - 50 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted for it.

Nonetheless, those working behind the scenes for years to get Congress to regulate drug prices consider the Medicare drug reductions a big victory.

“Pharma spends billions of dollars trying to confuse people about this bill. And we actually went toe-to-toe with them,” said Dana Kennedy of AARP Arizona.

Kennedy met personally with Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema in recent weeks about the bill. Both senators, who are Democrats, voted for the final version of the measure.

“This should not be a partisan issue at all. This is providing relief to our seniors who are spending so much money to take their medications,” Kennedy said.

RELATED: Here's what made it into the Inflation Reduction Act and what got cut

What’s next?

The U.S. House will vote on the bill Friday.  Democrats believe they have enough support to pass it.

“We have every reason to believe the Democrats in Congress will support this and if the Republicans vote the way they did last time, they will vote against it, unfortunately,” Kennedy said.

Like many aspects of government, the new law will take time to go into effect.

Kennedy said she believes consumers wouldn’t start seeing the benefits of the program until next year or 2024.

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